Royal Liverpool January
The project aims to create one of the largest emergency departments in the North West

Warburton: Royal Liverpool structural issues resolved

Sarah Townsend

Work to replace faulty cladding and fix other defects at the hospital has completed and the redevelopment is on track to finish next spring, according to its chief executive.

Steve Warburton, head of Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which owns and manages the Royal Liverpool, told a board meeting this month: “Construction is going very, very well.

“Clearly it was a massive undertaking when reworking started with [main contractor] Laing O’Rourke, but I’m delighted to say that all of what I would term the major structural defects have now been resolved.”

He added: “We did have a few challenges around having to slow down some of the timescales due to Covid restrictions that were placed on the construction site, but obviously we’ve been able to manage through that now.

“We’re now getting into the completion phase and are expecting handover from Laing O’Rourke in spring 2022.”

The remedial work included removing dangerous cladding from the building’s exterior, stripping out three floors of the building and starting work to reinforce the structure with steelwork and additional reinforced concrete.

The project has been hit with severe problems and delays in recent years, which have caused its projected costs to more than double to £724m from the £350m in the initial business case, according to a damning report last year by the National Audit Office. The revised figure included an estimated £293m for remedial work and to complete the structure.

The Royal Hospital is one of the national infrastructure schemes being delivered under a Government PFI (private finance initiative) contract, with work having started in 2014 led by now-collapsed contractor Carillion.

Under the plans, the revamped hospital will have 646 hospital beds, a 40-bed critical care unit and 18 operating theatres. The trust’s intention is to replace all existing buildings and create one of the largest emergency departments in the North West.

The project was originally due to complete in 2017, but Carillion pushed back completion to February 2018, and then again by several months, after it found cracks in concrete beams and asbestos in the ground of the Liverpool city centre site.

After Carillion went into administration, further issues were uncovered during a structural review by Arup in 2018 – including that the cladding on the building was unsafe – and the project had to be reviewed and re-costed as a result. The targeted completion date is now five years later than planned.

Laing O’Rourke was appointed to replace Carillion on the job, and last June the cladding remediation contract was handed to the original manufacturer, Martifer, which agreed to strip off the faulty material and rectify issues with the original installation.

The latest budget to complete the last stage of the project is set at £108.1m for 2021/22, papers published ahead of the trust’s board meeting last week show. This is in line with the revised business case approved by the trust and the Department of Health in January, and the Treasury has also reviewed and supported the case, the papers said.

A spokesperson for the trust added: “Construction work on the new Royal Liverpool University Hospital project has continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the project continues to progress towards the planned construction completion in spring 2022.”

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Sooner it’s finished the better. Staff and patients have suffered long enough.

By Graham